The Dietary Laws
I have dedicated five parts to the subject of food. I could easily extend that to fifty parts, but that is not the design of these lessons. These lessons are intended to expose at least some of the "taken for granted" teaching that is passed from one generation to the next. We have discussed some of the "knee jerk" Scriptures used to allegedly prove that God is not interested in the physical, only the spiritual. Before we launch into Vayikra 11 (Leviticus) I would like to begin with a basic principle that is used in 1 Corinthians 15. I cannot assure you that this verse, or at least my understanding of this verse, is applicable in every doctrinal area, but I do believe it is a general principle, and is used by both Yeshua and Sha’ul. In 1 Cor 15:45-46 Sha’ul says, "And so it is written, The first man, Adam, was made a life giving soul; the last Adam was made a life-giving spirit. However, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual." The comparison is Adam (natural) and Yeshua (the last Adam, spiritual). Laying the contexual teaching aside, I would like to focus on the principle of natural coming before spiritual. I do not believe that this is teaching on the nature of God, but rather the order of the matter/spirit relationship. The physical creation is a model from which we derive spiritual insight. Let me give a few examples. God the Father is spirit. Spirit is invisible and unseen, and virtually incomprehensible to man. God knew this in advance, so he gave instructions for the design, function, and responsiblities of earthly fathers. When this picture is obeyed we can see how the heavenly Father is pictured. If the earthly father paradigm or model is perverted, then we get a perverted, untrustworthy picture of the heavenly Father. This is why we must remain faithful to God's design of earthly fathers. Another example is in Yochanan (John) chapter 3. Yeshua uses the physical birth to be a model of the spiritual birth. Spiritual birth is like the wind that blows where it will, and no one knows where it comes from. If you can grasp the physical birth, you can begin to see the spiritual, for it is a picture of the spiritual. This is why Yeshua said to Nicodemus in verse 12, "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you heavenly things?" We could do dozens and dozens of lessons on just this subject. When you grasp what I am saying you will see these pictures everywhere. God placed His unseen nature as a picture in His feasts, the new moons, the Sabbath, the Mazzaroth, the furnishings in the tabernacle, the marriage, the parent/child relationship, the harvest cycles, the sons of Jacob, the talit, and in a pivotal crucifixtion two thousand years ago. When these physical models and pictures are grasped and the "spiritual" is seen, then the physical picture is filled with purpose and meaning. "FOR THE INVISIBLE THINGS OF HIM FROM THE CREATION OF THE WORLD ARE CLEARLY SEEN, BEING UNDERSTOOD BY THE THINGS THAT ARE MADE, EVEN HIS ETERNAL POWER AND GODHEAD, SO THAT THEY ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE;..."
God placed spiritual insight into the natural things. This is a subject that I will go into great detail on in next lessons, which will be on the tabernacle and it's furnishings.
Food is an everyday, common occurrance. This is why I have spent so much time discussing it. It is a vital part of our existence. Chinese polka bands are not, so that is why I will not spend any time discussing them. We all agree that we need food in order to sustain life. So do you think God would have something to say about this subject? Do you think that He would be interested in what we should put in our stomachs and what we should not? Do you believe for a minute that He created all things to be eaten? Do you think that perhaps some of His living creation has another purpose other than human consumption? From the beginning God put a difference between various entities of His creation. Plant life was distinguished from animal life, and animal life from human life. The celestial bodies were distinct from earthly bodies. The creatures of the sea were different from the fowl of the heavens. Cattle was distinct from creeping things. Adam was created male and Eve was created female. The tree of life was distinct from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The seed of the woman was different than the seed of the serpent. Abel's offering was distinct from Cain's. Noah's family was different than the rest of the inhabitants of the earth. When Noah was to enter the ark, the Lord made a distinction between animals that were clean and animals that were not clean (Bereshith 7:2). God has a distinct design and purpose for all of His creation. The English word "clean" is taken from the Hebrew word taher. The word clean is as good a word as any to describe the meaning of taher. This word is rarely understood in it's context however. It is commonly misunderstood to speak of ritual only. To be unclean is commonly associated with sin or transgression. This is not always the case. When you read these words in context you will begin to see why God uses this word. For example, unclean things are not unclean to other unclean things. Kinda confusing? As you trace out "clean and unclean" you will see that God instructs us as to what is unclean for you and me. For example we are told in Vayikra 11 over and over again that certain animals are UNCLEAN UNTO YOU. Vayikra 11:4 says, "...the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is UNCLEAN UNTO YOU.... In verse 7 the Lord states, "And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven-footed, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is UNCLEAN TO YOU." In contrast He says in verse 9, "These shall ye EAT of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them SHALL YE EAT." So, in speaking to humans He says that some things are unclean to you and others you may eat. A pig is not declared unclean to another pig. A camel is not unclean to a bear or to a pear for that matter. God is defining taher by it's context. He is declaring what is good, healthy, and holy for you. Notice in Bereshith 7:2, the Lord declares, "Of every clean (taher) beast thou shalt TAKE TO THEE by sevens, the male and his female; and of beasts that are NOT CLEAN by two, the male and his female." Notice that the beasts that are not clean Noah and his family are not to take "unto themselves". God makes a distinction between clean and not clean long before the "Law of Moses".
In the scholarly circles of modern Judaism there is much diversity of opinion in why God separated out certain animals from others. All of them see the fundamental differences in their physiology. Some draw somewhat mystical and ritualistic differences. As you peruse Vayikra chapter 11, you will see several qualifications concerning human consumption. You will begin to see a pattern for God's instructions, and the reason for not eating certain kinds will become clear. The qualifications for clean animals is basically two things. They must chew the cud and split the hoof. Now we could go on and on, as many commentators in this area do, about the details of these two conditions. But I will cut to the chase. In general, animals that split the hoof are not meat eaters. They are basically docile vegetarians. They do not contaminate themselves with diseased meat or rotting corpses. They eat the grains of the field, grass and vegetation. In addition, they chew the cud, which basically means they digest their food an extra step. When you eat an animal that splits the hoof and chews the cud, you are eating what it ate, which is thoroughly digested vegetation. When you eat a meat-eating animal, you are also eating what it ate, which is who knows what. Meat-eating animals are not generally picky about what they tear to pieces or find laying along the road. What they digested you eventually eat as well. In other words, you are what you eat. This is generally speaking, of course. There are still a few animals that are being argued about today. In the area of the sea creatures and fish, you will notice basically the same thing. Creatures such as crab, lobster, or shrimp are bottom feeders of the sea, in general. They creep along the sea bed and scarf up whatever floats to the bottom. For the most part the scaled fish swim near the top and do no eat the scum from the bottom of the seas. The same is true with the fowl, in general. The birds that are not to be eaten are hunters and tear away the flesh of their prey.
There is a lot of room for pet peeve anecdotes and certain species which seem to fly in the face of these commands. There are, of course, many "clean" animals today that have been shot up with steriods and other drugs, and are no more healthy than many of the "unclean" animals. Many places where chickens are processed are disgusting. But this is due to man's greedy nature to increase profits and not a result in the nature of pigs or chickens. The "CROSS" did not change the basic nature of the animal kingdom. The cross provided "the way" for the change in OUR sinful nature, not for a change in our diet. I would suggest a careful perusal of some of the books available in various Messianic and Orthodox Jewish ministries. There are much more profound and scientific (if that's what you desire) answers to this discussion than I can provide. I only want to stir up a little anger for what Christians have been traditionally taught. I believe and teach with all that is within me that God is smarter that we are. He is eternally smarter. He can introduce instructions 3500 years ago that can have the same impact and relevance to our lives today as they did when He gave them. In fact, if you have read or listened to the "How Then Shall We Live" series, you know that we need them more today than yesterday because of entropy. God gave "natural" commands for the natural, as long as the natural exists. When there comes a time, and soon it will be, that we are transformed spirit, soul, AND body, then "spiritual" instructions will continue for all that is spiritual. God is not ignorant! He knows just exactly how long the "natural" will be around.
Beginning next week, and I do mean next week, I am going to start a series on the tabernacle and it's relevance to our lives. I will cover the Most Holy Place, the Holy Place, the court and all the furniture, coverings and construction. I promise that this will be a very informative study, and one that can add to your present knowledge of this important subject.